January 8, 2013
“No matter what I say, what I believe, what I do, I am bankrupt without love.” ~The Holy Bible.
Adults have a voice, the old may have a say, but what about little children? Some may be too small to protest. Who can hear the inner screams of their little hearts? Like lambs they are led to psychotherapists, their parents feigning ignorance about their children’s mental condition.
Studies have shown that less than 30% of our youth are motivated. Of these, many may go astray as they begin to face life’s bigger hurdles. Most parents are aware that their teenaged children lack the zeal to do anything; even getting them to wake up on time is a huge task. I know of homes where the mention of prayer leads to arguments. Children, whose love tanks are empty, are like cars without fuel. We know exactly what our car needs, but many parents fall short of meeting their own children’s most primal need that the Holy Bible has identified. In so many homes, children are treated like commodities. We are “teaching” them to face the future as if there is a war going on in the world; we are not rearing them to love.
Just recently, even as I was contemplating writing on the topic, I received an all-too-familiar call from Mumbai. A lady, who I had counselled a few months ago, was asking on behalf of someone if I could talk to a 9-year-old boy. The child was showing signs of aggression, lack of interest in studies, and was getting worse by the day. Having seen and heard of so many cases, with some variations in behaviour, my first question was if the boy’s parents were still together. The answer was an expected ‘no’. The parents were separated and neither of them were interested in raising the child. The boy had ended up with his maternal grandparents when he was just four years old. Parents, gripped in a battle of ego, are too blind to see what toll their behaviour is taking on their children.
What are counsellors supposed to tell a child as tender as nine? That it is okay to be abandoned by parents? That he should forgive his parents and move on? It is fateful that the very people who need counselling are both engulfed in blaming each other; living in bitterness and self-pity. Neither feels the need to reconcile, even if means enjoying a full life and giving life to a child that was, in the first place, born out of love. So often all it takes is an apology to set things right, but even that has become as rare as the sighting of a comet.
In strife-ridden homes, a child may become scared, lonely, and a silent spectator, devoid of love from parents, who themselves are on empty love tanks. Such children are often confused about life, demotivated, insecure and are known to show signs of aggression and violence as they grow. A single child, even when he grows up, has no siblings to share his emotions with; and, transient friends can hardly provide any comfort.
Our modern societies don’t even spare infants. Many of today’s infants are left with a nanny, or home care for infants for long hours, as their parents choose to pursue their careers very seriously.
With the near collapse of the joint family system, little children – who otherwise would be looked after by an armada of family members comprising grandparents, uncles, aunts, grand-aunts, and grand-uncles – are left alone, or with maids. Maids come from different backgrounds and many are untrained. In the Gulf, housemaids are hugely in demand, but getting one of your nationality is extremely difficult and this poses communication problems. Whether the maid is experienced or not, no one can love a child as parents can – provided, of course, the parents are willing to love the child.
Studies are showing that unloved children don’t enjoy good immunity and many, many, suffer from frequent colds and allergies, while parents continue to blame the weather. Growing in a care centre where there are a dozen or more children also means that they are exposed to cross infections.
Apart from causing mental and emotional harm, there are physical dangers involved in leaving a child alone, or with a novice. I know of a couple who put a young and inexperienced housemaid in charge of their baby. The little baby choked on its own vomit after its routine feed and died.
Children as small as seven or eight years of age are left alone at home by working parents. What a child will do when he or she is alone can only be limited by our imagination, or merely dismissed by saying, “my son knows how to take care of himself.” Parents cannot ignore the real dangers of drowning in the bathtub, or electrocution.
Equally sinister is the physical or sexual abuse a child could be exposed to. A couple who had come to me for counselling, had left their son and daughter in India with relatives they trusted, while they both worked abroad. The little boy was subjected to physical abuse and mental torture; and the girl was sexually abused by her uncle.
During counselling, quite a few young men and women have recalled the times they were victimized by their own relatives, thus underlining the truth that traumatized victims may never fully recover. Cases of sexual abuse are on the rise and statistics show that children are almost always abused by known people.
Loneliness can also be caused when the family relocates and the social connections of the child are lost. This, of course, is far easier to treat, but initially parents must emphatize with their child and be supportive, if they find their child withdrawn. Over a period of time, as threads of new relationships are joined, the child will once again go on to his normal self. Frequent job changes and relocations may, however, have a far more serious impact on the child’s emotional growth. In such a case, the child becomes reluctant to build new relations for fear of separational heartaches.
Lonely children don’t necessarily come from broken homes. The population of children waiting for their parents to return from work, is on a rapid rise. These children return from school only to be greeted by deathly silence and their main entertainment outlet remains the television. It is estimated that by the time a child reaches the age of 18, he or she would have watched approximately 200,000 scenes of physical and sexual violence and 18,000 scenes of murders, even with just a couple of hours of exposure to television.
Sigmund Freud believed that children need to develop a sense of morality by the age of five or they could experience difficulties later in life. If a child doesn’t learn to understand the difference between right and wrong, he will not develop a proper understanding of guilt or remorse, and will thus be more likely to engage in behaviors that are socially and morally wrong. Research has shown television violence to also have a negative effect on the academic performance, sexuality, body concepts, and self-images of young viewers, which can lead to violent or aggressive behavior and substance abuse. In America, more than 150,000 adolescents are arrested annually for violent crimes. (Source: The American Academy of Pediatrics).
As more and more movies show violence as a justifiable means of resolving conflict, exposure to violence increases acceptance of violence as a means of resolving problems and children are led to believe that it is very normal, especially because violence is so glamorized. There is also a good percentage of children that get frightened with acts of violence and prolonged exposure may lead to depression because the world looks like a dangerous place to live in.
It is a serious mistake for a mother to think that “after a few years of work, I will then devote my entire time to my children.” In most cases, this does not happen because cravings for more do not end. Parents must understand that at the core of human need is the need to be loved. It starts from the time of conception, till the time of our death.
Studies have shown that if newborns are touched and caressed, their levels of growth hormone increase, and the protective coating of the motor nerves, myelin, becomes thicker. A mother’s loving urge to cuddle her baby translates directly into life-sustaining biochemical reactions. Babies deprived of loving attention can become emotionally stunted or dysfunctional. (Credit: Ageless Body, Timeless Mind by Deepak Chopra).
Parents of a single child can become very disappointed if their son does not meet their expectations. Children with low grades are looked down upon by their own peers, but worse, their own parents. College-going kids are often reminded time and again how much “we spend on you, but you are still the same.” The idea that low grades mean low intellectual capacity is utter nonsense, but judgemental parents constantly tell neighbours how “smart” their kid is, if his grades are good. With such meaningless ideas inculcated from an early age, children with low grades find themselves socially isolated, even rejected by their own parents. This has dangerous repercussions in professional colleges. A student, rejected by his “intellectual” peers, may go to the extreme of committing suicide, having already been reminded by his own parents over the years of how “stupid” he is.
I visited a couple, whose child was suffering from a condition that caused extreme weakness in his legs. Now 12 years old, the boy is responding well to treatment and doctors have said that soon he will be able to walk without crutches. The mother tells me, “He is a very bright boy, his marks are always above 90%, but what is the use? I don’t know whether he can succeed in anything with his physical condition.” I looked at the boy, and his helpless cherubic face revealed that his mother has killed him with those words a hundred times.
Parents can tell best when a child begins to feel the effect of loneliness, because they will know first hand, if they are observant, of any changes in the child’s behaviour. If your child often speaks of boredom, then he or she may be conveying something far more serious. If these signs are ignored, then it may become too difficult to handle such children without professional help; and, in many cases, medication. There is barely a classroom that does not have children who the teachers find “impossible to manage.”
Not all children, however, are expressive about loneliness, but non-verbal manifestations become transparent as days go by. Depending on the severity of the problem, lonely children may manifest any or some of the following signs:
- they cannot mix/interact with children of their age
- they are unable to maintain eye contact with parents
- they get angry, or cry, over small things
- they are generally timid and anxious
- they have problems eating (over or under)
- they are unable to rise in the morning
- they manifest an overall lack of interest in life (low self-esteem)
If teenagers are reading this article, then here are some points that you may find helpful.
Depression does not, per se, set in overnight. It is a gradual process and today more and more studies are confirming that our thoughts can cause chemical changes in our brain, leading to clinical conditions.
If you are feeling lonely then it is a sign that you need to bring about change or changes in your life. Closely observe the signs enumerated in this article. Please do not ignore these signs because they slowly begin to take complete hold of you. Remember that life is not stationary. The waves of the oceans are a reminder that the universe is in constant motion. Friends will come and friends will go, so don’t be afraid to make new ones. Don’t measure your worth in terms of what you have achieved – because nothing guarantees lasting happiness. The Bhagavad Gita says, “Inner peace is beyond victory and defeat.” Your peace is truly in your hands; don’t make the mistake of thinking that peace is influenced by external factors; it is not.
Spend a few hours every week doing community work. You will be amazed to see how many youngsters have found meaning in life by helping out in ashrams and other similar places. Simply make a visit and you will surely find something you would like to do. If you are in Mumbai, visit The House of Charity in Versova. It cares for the mentally and physically challenged children. You may wonder why the author would send you to a place that will depress you further. On the contrary, you will find more happy children and hear more laughter than you have ever heard before. It will remind you that the human spirit can overcome anything.
Do not hold yourself back because you fear rejection. Any and all fears are conquered only by faith. Do not count your life by the fruits you harvest, but by the seeds you sow. Take pride that you have tried because in God’s eyes that is what counts; you can never satisfy people, so beyond a certain point don’t look to people to motivate you.
If you are into any addiction, seek professional help. Don’t think that this is the end of the road for you. Again, you will be amazed to see how many second chances life throws at you, if you are willing to give life a second chance.
Rejection by a few people does not justify you from viewing the entire world as your enemy. You will always find people who share your taste, your likes and dislikes, your interests, your attitudes and your values. It is time you re-assessed your world view.
There is always a helpful person in the family, someone you can share your thoughts with. You will also find such a person in your family. There is always a point in time when we need someone’s help. Go on and talk to that person.
No matter how difficult it may seem, the only way to move on in life is to forgive those who have failed you, or hurt you. There is something very formidable about forgiveness, and only when you forgive will you experience its dynamic power first-hand.
If I can be of any help, you may write to me at email@example.com.
Oliver Sutari - Archives:
- Loneliness: The Dark Reality - 1
- We Adopted You: To Reveal or Not To?
- The Things We Say
- Wounds From The Womb...
- Restraint Above Reaction
- The Blame Game
- What are we Pursuing?
- Rekindling Love
- Sowing Seeds of Love
- Power of Human Will
- We Reap What we Sow...